Phaedo of Elis was well-known as a writer of Socratic dialogues, and it seems inconceivable that Plato could have been innocent of intertextuality when, excusing himself on the grounds of illness, he made him the narrator of one of his own: the Phaedo. In fact the psychological model outlined by Socrates in this dialogue converges with the evidence we have (especially from fragments of the Zopyrus) for Phaedo's own beliefs about the soul. Specifically, Phaedo seems to have thought that non-rational desires were ineliminable epiphenomena of the body, that reason was something distinct, and that the purpose of philosophy was its 'cure' and 'purification'. If Plato's intention with the Phaedo is to assert the separability and immortality of reason (whatever one might think about desire and pleasure), then Phaedo provides a useful standpoint for him. In particular, Phaedo has arguments that are useful against the 'harmony-theorists' (and are the more useful rhetorically speaking since it is only over the independence of reason that Phaedo disagrees with them). At the same time as allying himself with Phaedo, however, Plato is able to improve on him by adding to the demonstration that reason is independent a proof that it is actually immortal.
This contribution explores the emergence of a distinctive polemical vocabulary in post-Hellenistic philosophy that distinguished between two forms of disagreement: the weak form of “difference” within a particular philosophical school, and the strong form of “opposition” between the schools. Mere differences are turned into oppositions when a school emphasises its own qualitative explanatory difference over and above another school, believing that its position enables a better or fuller explanation of particular phenomena than rival theories do. This polemical “subordination” is then greeted by the other schools in a critique, stating that the more comprehensive frameworks are unnecessary, illusory, and in need of “deflation.” Yet despite these mutual polemics of subordination and inflation, each school regarded the philosophical training of the rival schools as “propaedeutic” to its own, enabling the kind of intellectual journey through the schools that Justin Martyr experienced when he progressed from Stoicism to Aristotelianism, Pythagoreanism, Platonism, and finally to Christianity. It is this hierarchy of successive subordination that prevents the post-Hellenistic schools from becoming intolerant, although an important antithesis remains: between these “dogmatic” schools on the one hand and Scepticism on the other. Christianity fits into these kinds of inter-school polemics, but only up to the point at which some Christians argued, not that they had access to the ultimate explanatory principles, but that this access remained unavailable to the Greek philosophers even in principle, because it was dependent upon divine help and revelation. These Christians joined the debate with the philosophical schools with the intention not only of subordinating the other schools, but also of rendering them irrelevant, as they deemed faith to be possible without (and even despite) the propaedeutic utility of the philosophical schools. Although scholars increasingly doubt whether a systematic policy of intolerance towards pagan philosophy ever actually emerged within the Christian Roman Empire, some Christian positions are more inclined to intolerance than others, depending on their views of the constructive propaedeutic role that pagan literature and philosophy could play in understanding ultimate truth. Yet debates between the philosophical schools could be very heated indeed. For instance, the Platonist Atticus responds to Aristotle’s criticism of Platonism by stating that Aristotle “could not understand the theory, since things so great, divine, and transcendent require a like faculty for their com- prehension,” whereas Numenius, another Platonist, opposes both the scepticism of the Academic school and the materialism of the Stoic school, accusing them of “betraying” Plato by dropping some of his beliefs, distorting others, and diverging from him through ignorance or even deliberately.
In the post-Enlightenment world, philosophy and religion have come to occupy different, even opposed, domains. But how were they related before this? What were the commonalities and dissimilarities between them? Did they already contain the seeds of their later division – or do they still share enough in common to allow meaningful conversation between them?
This new Brill series “Ancient Philosophy & Religion” provides an interdisciplinary platform for monographs, edited volumes and commentaries on this issue. It is edited by two leading scholars in the fields it brings together, George Boys-Stones (Ancient Philosophy) and George van Kooten (New Testament Studies), and is supported by an editorial board whose members are known for their work in the area. It invites scholars of ancient philosophy, Classics, early Judaism, ancient Judaism, New Testament & early Christianity, and all other relevant fields, to showcase their research on ancient philosophy and religion and to contribute to the debate.
The series’ subject matter is symbolized by its icon, used by courtesy and permission of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. It represents a dialogue between philosophers, as shown on one of the reliefs of the funeral sacrificial table (mensa) from the “House of Proclus” on the Southern slope of the Acropolis at Athens, excavated in 1955. Dating from 350-325 BC, the reliefs of the mensa depict, after the lamentation and the farewell, the posthumous encounter of the deceased with the philosophers (1950 NAM 90).
The editors very much welcome proposals for monographs, edited volumes and even commentaries on relevant texts.
In describing the Stoic principles, the manuscript tradition of DL 7.134 preserves readings which variously call them σώματα, ‘bodies’, or ἀσώματα, ‘incorporeals’; but the Suida quotes this passage with ἀσωμάτους, ‘incorporeal’. This paper shows that the Suida has the best reading (and that, in any case, σώματα is least likely to be right). This is not the only, or the clearest, case where the Suida can correct our text: another example considered here concerns DL 7.74.